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AP finds African-Americans still excluded from high-wage jobs

It has been 50 years since the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- and longer still since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 promised to end to workplace discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion or sex. While it is certain that the situation has improved for many people of color in America, we still have a long way to go.

How long a way? Consider what the Associated Press found after analyzing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Community Survey, a federal government survey. The data showed that a white worker has a much greater chance than an African-American worker to have a job in one of the 11 highest-paying fields as identified by the BLS.

These are jobs in areas like management, math and computers, architecture, engineering and law. Among the top five, the median income ranges between $65,000 and $100,000.

Based on population share alone, there are approximately 5.5 white workers for every African-American worker nationwide. That ratio varies based on the size of the local African-American population. For example, in Boston the ratio is approximately 9.5 white workers for each African-American worker. In New York, the ratio is 3 to 1.

Nationwide, white workers outnumber African-Americans in some top fields, by:

  • Law: 12 to 1
  • Management: 10 to 1
  • Computers and math: 8 to 1
  • Education: 7 to 1

In finance capital New York, whites outnumber African-Americans 6 to 1 in business and finance jobs. In Seattle, home of Google and Amazon, whites outnumber African-Americans by almost 28 to 1 in computer and math professions. In Hollywood, the ratio in the entertainment industry is almost 9 to 1.

Most U.S. metro areas are more like Seattle and New York, the AP says, than they are like Atlanta, where the ratio is roughly 1 to 1 in many fields. Atlanta is the home of several historically black colleges and universities. Its first African-American mayor was elected in 1973.

In the rest of the country, there are systemic barriers in the path to equality, says the director of Northeastern University's Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy. Examples include not only direct race discrimination but also white-dominated office cultures; hiring based more on the candidate "fitting in" than providing diversity; investors more comfortable with whites' startup ideas; and the relegation of many African-Americans to poor neighborhoods with substandard schools. He also mentioned companies that decry the lack of qualified applicants but never consider training minority talent.

We all have work to do if we want a more equitable society. If you are suffering from racism at work, talk to an employment law attorney about possible solutions.

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